The Fossil Fuel Resistance: Meet the New Green Heroes

Students, scientists, reverends and more are on the front lines of the most pressing environmental issue of our age

Rev. Sally Bingham: The Church Lady

Rev. Sally Bingham
Bill Bradlee/The Regeneration Project

Since launching the Interfaith Power and Light Campaign in 2000, Rev. Sally Bingham has organized 15,000 churches, synagogues and mosques into a formidable national network of faith communities who see climate change not as a policy or technical challenge, but as an issue of spiritual dimension. "In this country, we've never had the kind of cultural and social change climate change requires without religious involvement," says Bingham. "Anti-slavery, women's suffrage, civil rights – all of these movements succeeded because of their moral foundation." IPL started like most environmental networks and institutions: small and local. Bingham began with 60 California episcopal churches that agreed to purchase a portion of their energy from the renewable energy provider Green Mountain. The group's ranks multiplied fast. But in 2001, rising wholesale costs sabotaged California's fledging renewable market. "That's when I realized we had to get involved at the policy level," she says. IPL joined the fight for a California energy standard requiring utilities to derive a fifth of their energy from renewables by 2017. The bill passed in 2002 and has since been expanded twice, now mandating a third of the state's energy to come from renewables by 2020. Bingham, meanwhile, has taken her policy work to Washington. Each spring, she leads a delegation of 80 IPL state leaders to Capitol Hill for meetings with Congressional delegations. "We're trying to maintain a unique voice based in theology so we can have more Republicans within our community," she says. The strategy appears to be working. "We're starting to get some traction in red states like Oklahoma, Minnesota, Arkansas, Kansas," she says. "Eyes are opening in faith communities across the political spectrum that climate change is about values and a duty to protecting God's creation."

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